The honor system is satisfying for 2 small business owners in Wilmington

WILMINGTON — For the owners of two small businesses in Wilmington, the Fair Pay system has worked.

A produce cart along Rombach Avenue and Adventure Cove Miniature Golf just off the SR 73 Wilmington Bypass has used an honor system in recent years, asking its customers to pay for vegetables and fruits picked or for outdoor recreation, though the businesses have not watched by the staff.

Fayette County farmer Isaac Garland had been told by a Franklin County man who offered hay on the honor system to horse owners that he would be surprised if he tried the approach—the Columbus farmer had found that most people paid for what they took. Hearing this, Garland is more open to starting his own self-paying wagon loaded with farm produce.

“I didn’t have enough time to sit there all the time,” Garland explained. So he parked a wagon in the city of Washington to see if it would work, and it did.

As this venture close to home proved successful, he chose to branch out to Wilmington, where for the past two or more years he has set up a cart on busy Rombach Avenue.

Before moving to the First State Bank parking lot this year, the cart was located on a side street under construction off Rombach, but where it could still be seen by passing motorists. However, it turned out that the deposit box and its contents were like a duck there.

The cash/check deposit box was probably broken into at least a dozen times, Garland said, and the deposit box itself was taken out and taken out several times.

“Without a doubt, last year was the worst year. This year things have turned around,” said Garland, a member of a farming family.

This year’s parking lot has lights at night and is closer to Rombach, where passers-by may notice an act of breaking and entering the cash register or spiriting it away.

He hopes to return to Wilmington next year and may add a credit card reader as a payment option. Customers this year could pay with a smartphone app, which on the one hand meant less money in the cash register for theft.

Adventure Cove switched to a self-service and honor system after the pandemic hit.

Its owners, Beth Rice and her son, Derek, both have full-time jobs in addition to the miniature golf course, and Beth said to cover it in their off-hours, well, “that’s a lot to do,” after they finish the other it’s work.

Once they chose the self-serve, self-pay model, they saw it work, she said.

They offer both a cash payment app and a cash deposit box as payment options. Golf clubs and balls can be selected from an unlocked box outdoors on the patio, ready for 18 holes.

“For the most part, it’s been very good,” Rice said, referring to the honesty of the customers more than their numbers.

“People will even return all the balls to us – be our employee for us and refill,” she commented.

On the other hand, a sign on the office door indicates that during the first two putt seasons since no staff was present, there was more damage than before to the course’s pirate-themed decorations and golf clubs.

But paying an employee to collect customers’ entrance fees would be a practice that would lose money at the current customer base, Rice said.

In general, people have been very honest, she said.

Sometimes someone will call and say they can’t get the cash app to work, they don’t have enough cash and they’re a dollar short and can they send it later?

The outdoor pat-pat season is almost over, she noted, and they will put away the benches, but as long as the weather is nice, they will leave the bats and balls for self-pay customers.

Contact Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.

Norman Lane of Wilmington picks a dozen ears of sweet corn in September in a farm produce wagon that runs on the honor system along Rombach Avenue in Wilmington. Later, he would put money in through the deposit box slot—actually paying a little more than the price listed on the wagon’s plate.

Instead of a business owner or employee accepting payment, Isaac Garland’s unattended farm produce van has a cash or check deposit box, meaning he relies on an honor system with his Wilmington customers.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, Justin and Erin Lawson of Fairfield Township were surprised to learn that Adventure Cove’s miniature golf is run on the honor system. On the same trip, they enjoyed the antique shops in Waynesville and visited Caesar Creek State Park.

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